Thursday, March 4, 2010

The hardest decision...working out in front of others....

My first step in change was finding somewhere to work out. I had done the treadmill at home thing years ago when I lived in Pennsylvania, and I knew it wouldn't work. It would quickly become an extension of my closet. I needed to be doing something more formal. But like many of my friends, the thought of working out in a group environment was terrifying, I had visions of me surrounded by all the "pretty people" while sweating like a pg through a hour of treadmill while they all stared at the fat girl pretending to workout. It was intimidating and threatening and on top of that also carried a lot of emotional baggage me.

This was definitely one of those changes in life that I had to settle up with the past before I could move forward. *deep breath* This is a story I have only shared with one other person in my lifetime, my trainer, but as I was thinking about this post I realized I wouldn't be keeping to my mission if this wasn't included in this post, so here goes.

I am 39, the last time I seriously worked out (other than swimming/water aerobics and a very short stent of trying a Y in NY) with someone else watching was 26 years ago. I was 13, I weighed 185 pounds and I hated being a fat teen. For those of you who great up in the 80's you will recall this was the "Jane Fonda days" and my friend Lynn and I had full embraced it, leg warmers, headbands and all. I wasn't very good at it but I was trying. I don't recall why my dad was home on that specific day but he was, parked in his normal chair in the living room, and I had the tape in the VCR trying to slug my way through Jane telling me to "feel the burn". My father was not a kind man in any way but often he would at least shut his mouth, this day he decided otherwise. As I was trying to work out he decided to point out how fat I was and that I was making the whole house shake by jumping up and down in it and how ridiculous I looked. I was done. I never turned the tape on again, I never went to another group aerobics class and I never walked into a health club again. And until this past week every time I worked out I would feel his looks and his comments as if it was 1983 all over again.

I have spent a lot of my adult life coming to terms with and over coming scars my father left on me, and as part of my weight loss journey I needed to deal with this one head on.

After trying unsuccessfully to find a friend locally willing to be my workout partner I decided to go it alone and join one of the clubs near my house. I really wanted a pool and water aerobics so my choices were rather limited and Lifetime Fitness was the only one that also fit my other criteria of having clubs around the country for when I travelled.

The other thing I was looking for was to join a large club. That might sound weird, more people looking at me, but I saw it just the opposite, I wanted there to be so many people i could be invisible and get lost in the crowd. I'd only learn later how impossible that was going to be.

My expectations going into the first meeting with the membership advisor, Lance, were pretty low. Lifetime has a pretty strong reputation for being high pressure sales and rather pricey. I went as far as stating those concerns in my email to set up the meeting. And I think it helped. Lance handled me with kid gloves and I appreciated that. He was there to make a sale, I get that, but he kept the tone light and that made it easier.

When I went on the first tour I knew this was the right place. There was something about the energy in the Eagan Lifetime Fitness club that drew me in. The first thing I noticed as we walked around was it wasn't all just "pretty people". Both the staff and the members looked really normal, all different body types, all different sizes, all different physical abilities. The other thing I noticed was how friendly EVERYONE was. This has been the biggest shocker to me, whether you are in the locker room or working out or in the pool or simply walking out the front door after working out, everyone speaks to each other, everyone smiles and it doesn't feel like a hostile environment. Members who don't even know each other are genuinely supportive of each other, and it is just a fun place to be.

Did any of that changed my paranoia about others watch me working out, heck no, but how I got past that will have to come in a few posts. But it did get me in the door, it got me to start working out (I started out with water aerobics) and it kept me coming back. And that alone was a huge hurdle.

I don't want to close this post making it sound like I think Lifetime is the answer for everyone. One of the things I am learning as I experience more LTF clubs around the country is that their culture is very unique. I have been to one in San Antonio which was every stereotype I had imagined before I joined Eagan and I would never set foot in again. I have been to one in North Carolina which was huge, and fancy (far beyond Eagan) but where there was a warmth similar to Eagan's.

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